Snow, ice, and salt grime will soon gather on our cars. Reality is here, it’s wintertime and to be safe this fridged season, many of the sensors that are key to the operation of advanced safety systems that protect us while driving can become blocked and shut down.
Safety systems such as forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems should always be cleared of ice and snow. Why? Well these life-saving features rely on radar sensors that are often mounted in the car's grille—sometimes even in the car's emblem—or on its front bumpers. When these critical sensors are unable to identify what's in front of them, they can shut down, illuminating a warning light on the dash. When this happens, the cars safety systems will not work…at all!
It’s a tricky situation for us midwestern drivers as some automakers say that to work best, sensors that control things like automatic emergency braking sensors need to sit behind the front grille. This places them at the mercy of snow or ice build-up. And depending on the model of car you drive, your vehicle could have other sensors strategically placed around the car, such as on bumpers, so they can best do their jobs.
Understanding where the sensors are located and how to keep them clear and functioning properly is important. The locations of your sensors should be listed in the vehicles owner’s manual, or a Douglas Automotive Service Advisor can also show you on your particular vehicle.
Here are some helpful tips to keep your sensors clean:
- The grille: When you first get a new car, spend some time identifying all of the sensors that may be hidden in the grille area so that you’ll know where to focus your cleaning effort. Recent vehicles that have FCW, AEB, and/or adaptive cruise control most likely have their radar sensors located out front, either within the grille or in the lower center of the front bumper.
- The windshield: More cars are using cameras and sensors behind the glass for FCW or automatic wipers. As these sensors can sometimes be located outside the path of the wipers, it’s worthwhile to stop periodically during foul weather to completely clear your windshield of built-up ice and snow.
- Rear body quarter panels: These often hold radars that are used to power blind-spot monitoring systems, or behind you when your vehicle is in Reverse. Older models (such as some from Acura and Volvo) use a camera located just below the outside mirrors.
- Sensors in the car’s front and, often, rear bumpers: These power the parking alert systems. The front ones let you know when you’re getting too close to an object; the rear ones can tell you if a car is moving toward you in a parking lot.
- The rearview camera: Ice, snow, salt, and dirt can muck this up and make it useless.
- Remember the cameras located in the front grille, underneath your side mirrors, and in the back that power a 360-degree-view system. Ice, snow, and salt can often cake on these, making them unusable.